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6 Myths That Can Kill Any News Release :

6 Myths That Can Kill Any News Release

Journalism has its five standard questions and promoters have a standard response — the basic news release. Although a news release should be seen as nothing more than a brief communication alerting reporters to a possible story, the concept has grown to the point where news releases are today shrouded in mythology, misunderstanding and mystique.

News releases are misunderstood because lurking between the visible words one can often find a host of unwritten assumptions. It’s these expectations, rather than material in the releases themselves, that often sour relationships between journalists and promoters.

False Assumption #1: News releases equal news.

News releases may sometimes be news, but in all circumstances they’re tools designed to influence media coverage. The mere existence of a news release does not insure that it’s accurate, in context, factual or complete.

The central problem is that we would each like to define how we are seen by the world and so a news release reflects our self-perceptions. News, however, requires a range of perspectives rather than just a promoter’s solitary viewpoint.

False Assumption #2: A news release is successful when it’s aired or printed verbatim.

If one has a very limited sense of “victory,” then perhaps getting a release printed or aired is a success of sorts. The difficulty is this: If a publication or station uses your material verbatim, how credible is the rest of their “news?” If credibility is limited, how valuable is the victory?

Suppose a news release says, “Colossal Industries earned $2.3 billion in the last year.” Could a journalist just air or reprint this statement on faith in a news story?

To use this release verbatim assumes it’s true and, in effect, that the journalist believes it’s true. But even if the material is correct, it still could not be used in its present form. The problem is attribution.

If the statement from Colossal Industries is used verbatim a reader, listener or viewer will believe the words are those of a reporter. This difficulty can be easily resolved by saying “Colossal Industries reported sales of $2.3 billion in the last year.” Now we at least know it’s the company claiming sales and not the reporter attesting to the firm’s figures.

It’s possible to have news releases printed verbatim when they provide for attribution or when their content is largely “data” as in names, dates, places, etc. A release announcing a new 27th vice president might qualify.

False Assumption #3: A news release is successful when the information it contains is used by reporters.

Yes . . . and no. It’s surely a good sign when release information appears in the media, but this is not the pinnacle of success. There is a higher standard by which releases should be measured: Is the release so interesting reporters call back to build their own stories?

The idea of media marketing, after all, is not only to obtain coverage, but to receive as much coverage as possible. If a news release sets in motion a series of events that lead to a feature article or lengthy interview, that’s a far bigger success than just having a paragraph or two buried in a major publication or used for five seconds in the midst of a lengthy broadcast.

Assumption #4: News releases are useful because they allow promoters to spread material quickly to a large number of journalists.

It’s true that news releases can be used to disseminate information widely and with speed. But is this good? Not always.

If 250 reporters receive the same release, the information is hardly exclusive, and some journalists may not bother with the story precisely because of it’s broad distribution. Newsletters, for example, will hesitate to use information if they feel a general circulation publication has the same material.

False assumption #5: All new releases are meant for the media.

Some portion of the huge number of news releases received by the media are never intended for publication or broadcast. They are, instead, the products of internal politics, releases sent out because someone with ego (and clout) needs to be mollified or because an itchy client wants ACTION. Rather than argue, it’s easier to write a release, send it out and then if nothing comes of it, blame reporters.

“Well, we’re trying sir. Just last week we sent out 14 releases, all with your name right there in the very first paragraph, but for some reason we just can’t get past those hacks in the media. But don’t worry, I’ve checked the supply room and we’ve got 41 cases of stationary on hand, enough to churn out 50 or 60 releases a month for the next six years.”

False assumption #6: Journalists can’t wait to read the next news release.

Maybe it’s the movies or television dramas, but somehow the idea has developed that reporters eagerly arise each day yearning for the latest consignment of releases.

The problem for journalists is that buried within each day’s literature may be the seeds of a worthwhile story, so looking through news releases is a necessary chore. And because releases must be read — or at least skimmed — promoters have a chance to compete for a reporter’s time and attention. It’s that opportunity which makes the development of a workable release worthwhile.

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